The Geneva Agreement, signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 February 1966, was established to resolve the disagreement between Venezuela and the United Kingdom regarding the border between Venezuela and British Guiana. The agreement's official title is the "Agreement to Resolve the Controversy over the Frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana" but is more commonly called the Geneva Agreement. It is a treaty signed by representatives of Venezuela and the United Kingdom, as well as the Prime Minister of British Guiana, in which the steps for resolution of the border controversy were detailed. The disagreement originated in Venezuela's contention that the "Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void", followed by Venezuela declaring ownership of a large portion of Guyana's territory.
The Geneva Agreement was published in the Official Gazette of Venezuela on 15 April 1966. It was later registered on 5 May 1966 in the General Office of the Organization of the United Nations under the Registration Number 8192.
Three months after the agreement, on 26 May 1966, the colony of British Guiana gained independence. British Guiana became the "Republic of Guyana" (and from 1970, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana), and formed part of the agreement as a sovereign and independent country alongside the United Kingdom and Venezuela.
The Geneva Agreement is a transitory agreement, yet to lead to a definite solution. Therefore, the area in claim comes under the authority of the Government of Guyana until the situation is resolved. The first article of the document notes Venezuela's contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void.
The agreement established the creation of an integrated Mixed Commission by the representatives of Venezuela and of British Guiana. In a 4-year term, they would have to determine a solution to the border problem.
In 1983 Venezuela proposed direct negotiation with Guyana, but Guyana countered with three alternatives in lieu of negotiation; mediation by the General Assembly of the UN, the Council of Security or the International Court of Justice. Venezuela rejected all three options.
In the same year, on the initiative of Venezuela, discussion of the border conflict continued under the auspices of the Secretary General of the United Nations, in concordance with Article IV number 2 of the agreement. It also comlied with article 33º of the Letter of the United Nations concerning the means of peaceful solutions of controversies.
In 1987, Guyana and Venezuela agreed to accept mediation from 1989 in the person of a Good Officiant elected and accepted by both parties.
At present, the Good Officiant is a Jamaican, Norman Girvan, who has been chosen and accepted by both countries with the consent of the Secretary General of the UN.
The positions of the parties arose out of different interpretations of Article 1 of the agreement.
For Guyana, the purpose of the agreement is initially to determine if Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void. Therefore, unless Venezuela proves its nullity, the Arbitral Award is a confirmed.
For Venezuela, the object of the agreement is to reach a practical agreement. It considers that the nullity of the Arbitrary Award is implicit.
The Geneva Agreement was criticised for having reopened a case that many in Guyana felt was closed. Critics have included President Cheddi Jagan, founder of the People's Progressive Party, who wrote unfavorably about the agreement in his book "The West on Trial" (1996).
Venezuela considers the agreement to be a valuable—but flawed—part of the process of negotiation. Venezuela claims that the United Kingdom granted independence to its colony without the border problem being solved and protests that the character of a "state" has been granted to a colony that did not possess it. Venezuela further contends that the original perception was of itself as a weaker nation usurped by the colonial power of United Kingdom; now the poor and recently independent Guyana would look to be the weaker nation facing a richer, more powerful country like Venezuela.